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Survey: 61% of most polluted cities in India

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Various independent studies have revealed the extent of the harm caused by air pollution; it caused 3.2 million premature deaths in 2014 alone, and two-third of these deaths occurred in Europe, China and other rapidly developing countries of Asia.

delhi-pollution_660_050814010144Latest information compiled by Blueair, a global leader in mobile indoor air purification technologies, shows that air pollution is clearly linked to lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and asthma, resulting in premature deaths every year in Europe, Asia and China.

A recent survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that 13 of the most polluted 20 cities in the world, that is 61 per cent, are in India. According to the survey report, Delhi is the most polluted city in the world. The recent Environmental Preference Index has ranked India 174 out of 178 countries for air quality. It has become a leading cause of premature death in India, with about 620,000 people dying every year from pollution-related diseases, says the WHO.

According to World Bank’s latest economic evaluation, the cost of serious health consequences from particulate pollution in India is assessed at 3 per cent of its GDP and the total damage because of environmental degradation amounts to Rs 3.75 trillion (US $80 billion). This is equivalent to 5.7 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The latest number crunching by the World Bank is an eye-opener. Its evaluation of the damage to health from a gamut of environmental factors—including air pollution, inadequate water supply and poor sanitation—shows outdoor air pollution takes the maximum toll in India. This is followed by indoor air pollution.

The combined cost of outdoor and indoor air pollution is the highest annual burden on India’s economy. Outdoor air pollution accounts for 29 per cent, followed by indoor air pollution (23 per cent).

The higher cost of outdoor and indoor air pollution is driven by high exposure of the young and productive urban population to particulate matter pollution. That leads to higher rates of deaths due to cardiopulmonary and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases among adults.

“The big problem is that most people do not see air pollution as a major issue, unless you live in smog beset cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai. Obesity and alcohol grab the headlines, yet people don’t realize the insidious danger posed by modern air pollution. Thanks to a toxic mix of diesel fumes, dust and chemicals, just taking a walk in a modern city is turning men, women and children into passive smokers,” Mr. Rittri, CEO and founder of Blueair, said.

Mr. Rittri added that for air pollution to be addressed effectively, national health authorities need to work harder to flag awareness about the problem and the potential to save lives and reduce health costs.

 

Next Story

National Clean Air Programme Should Set Higher Targets

Air pollution in India is now a national security issue. It needs as much attention and budget provision as discussion and sense of urgency in the procurement of defence equipment

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India, air pollution
An Indian Air Force soldier drinks tea as he stands guard next to rifles during a break at the rehearsal for the Republic Day parade on a cold winter morning in New Delhi, Dec. 26, 2018. VOA

By Rajendra Shende 

There is a striking similarity between Paris Climate Agreement and India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) launched recently. The Paris Agreement is an agreement by the countries to map a global action to keep global warming two degrees centigrade below pre-industrial level.

It utterly lacks teeth to deal with issues, among others, non-compliance and the essential need for finance and technology transfer for achieving that target. Volunteerism is the undercurrent on which the shaky edifice of Paris Agreement rests.

India’s NCAP is a similar story. It is a plan to make a plan to keep the air quality that meets the norms of the World Health Organisation (WHO). While the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) deserves all the appreciation and encouragement to get going on the job, though quite late and definitely five years behind schedule of another polluted country, China. Non-recognition of the nation-wide threat seems to be the undercurrent on which this well-intended and much-needed national programme rests.

To be fair, the anti-pollution measures have already begun in India over the last decade, though in bits and pieces and through knee-jerks, mainly in setting air quality and vehicle emissions standards, national air quality monitoring programme and indices, fuel quality norms etc.
Even after 42 measures issued earlier by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and graded response action plan that addresses the seasonal and level of severity for Delhi and other cities, air pollution remains a national challenge of Himalayan proportions.

The only major action that has been effective in providing the immediate benefits is extraordinary and accelerated level of penetration of LPG-use in the household and in public transport like buses and auto-rickshaws. Energy efficiency measures through use of LED bulbs, efficient fans, refrigerators and air conditioners have helped in reducing the consumption of fossil fuel in generating extra electricity and the air pollution.

Credit certainly goes to the present government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal. Sadly, India still remains on top of the list of the countries where a majority of the mega cities have air quality which is a hundred times worse than the WHO norms.

Nearly 50 per cent of the top most polluted 30 cities are in India. Delhi is now more known dubiously as the world” air-pollution capital rather than India’s political capital. Out of the seven million deaths that take place globally, as per WHO, due to outdoor and indoor pollution, nearly 1.25 million deaths ( 2017) take place in India.

Delhi. air pollution
A man rides his bicycle in front of the India Gate shrouded in smog in New Delhi, Dec. 26, 2018. VOA

About 51 per cent of these deaths were of people younger than 70. More than four decades of the efforts on a ‘smokeless chulha”(domestic cooking stove), first by the government and then by the mushrooming national and international NGOs, the deaths in 2017 due to indoor pollution caused by the burning of the solid fuel in cooking stoves stands at half a million, as per one report. This in a country where clean environment and pollution-free air and water are constitutionally mandated.

India” efforts at the highest level really started more than four decades back when The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, was enacted under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution to enhance the well-being of its citizens which is now deep-rooted in India” development philosophy and strategy. The 106 pages of the NCAP with nearly 63 pages of substantive text and rest broad strategies and annexes represent, at best, good intentions and a structured way to move forward. The document, however, grossly overlooks the nation-wide emergency and drastic measures needed to redress the grim, dangerous and fast-deteriorating situation.

In a country where emergency measures are not unfamiliar, one wonders why the NCAP sounds like any other plan that embodies elephantine speed of execution.

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The goal of the NCAP is to meet the prescribed annual average ambient air quality standards at all locations in the country in a stipulated time-frame. It recognises that internationally, the successful actions had been city-specific rather than country-wide. It also recognises that 35-40 per cent reduction of pollutants in five years for cities, such as Beijing and Seoul, particularly in regard to particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM 10) concentrations. Hence, the target of 20-30 per cent reduction in such concentration by 2024 is proposed under the NCAP (2017 as base year).

Recognising Modi” proclamation that the 21st century is going to be India” century, it is not clear why the NCAP target is lower than what is achieved in Beijing and Seoul. If India takes the top place in GDP growth globally, why do we have such low targets in meeting air quality over five years, particularly considering the fact that it is the 65 per cent of India” young population would be the main victims of the worsening air quality?

Air pollution in India is now a national security issue. It needs as much attention and budget provision as discussion and sense of urgency in the procurement of defence equipment. (IANS)